Marxist Theory and Oedipus the King Essay

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Marxist Theory and Oedipus the King

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" (Marx and Engels 2). This excerpt, taken from Karl Marx's and Friedrich Engels' The Communist Manifesto, explains the two primary classes found throughout most of Europe during the era of the Industrial Revolution. These classes were the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The former were known as the "exploiters" and the latter as the "exploited".

The wealth, power, and prestige of the bourgeoisie, acquired mostly from their control of institutions, industries, and means of production, enabled them to force upon the proletariat their economic, political, and religious ideologies. These are the same ideologies
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(E.g. Oedipus the king, Jocasta the queen, and Creon, the king's proxy, all belong to this upper class division.) These high-ranked officials rule the city's people directly whereas the gods rule them indirectly. That being said, the lower class then consists of those being ruled over, the citizens. This two-class system perceived throughout the play holds distinct similarities to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of the Industrial Revolution.

Oedipus Tyrannus is a perpetual class struggle in that one of the two classes is constantly with some type of conflict. At the start of the play, for instance, the lower class is suffering plague and pollution. Although not revealed at first, this plague is caused by the actions of the upper class, much like how most of the proletariat's troubles are a direct result of the actions of the bourgeoisie.

The lower class suffers inevitably due to their exploitation by the upper class. The upper class, being the more powerful and controlling class, is able to influence the lower class with their political, economic, and religious ideologies. As stated earlier, these common ideologies are what cause the citizens to be loyal to their rulers. This is possibly the reason as to why the citizens of Thebes are able to confront Oedipus and ask for his help to rid them of
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